Selling in Tough Times

We can’t avoid the discussion of the current economy (or lack their of!) which is one of the reasons I  hosted our  Sales Stimulus call Nov 25th.  The only thing clear about the current situation is that buyer behavior has changed. You need to know how it has changed and how to use those changes in order to be successful selling through this economic upheaval. Specific buyer behavior changes are: (1) an increasing reliance on referral based decision making, (2) the increase usage of committee based decision making and (3) consolidation of vendors. Knowing how to use three changes to your advantage will ensure your business grows through these uncertain times and make you poised to really take off when the economy turns around.

Grow? Now? Yes. Everyday this month client’s have been asking me whether sales results can be improved – and sales targets met – in what some call a “soft economy.” The answer is an unqualified yes. But first, we have to stop blaming the economy.

Sure, the economy plays a role in sales success and knowing how to finesses and change your selling model to meet the new demands of this new economy is important. But the economy is only one element of your success, and definitely not the most important one at that. At its most fundamental level, sales performance is about one thing and one thing only: performance. Today’s top sales performers understand that fact, just as they understand that their performance is a direct result of how they demonstrate attitude, integrity and caring towards their customers, each and every day.

Yes, some clients have a poor perception of sales people. But that, too, can be changed. Don’t believe me? Then read on. Successful sales people come from a wide variety of backgrounds, sales styles and techniques. But almost without exception, there’s one thing they all share: successful sales professionals understand that honest communication is the secret to increasing sales effectiveness. These sales people focus their efforts on creating a positive customer experience, based on openness and trust.  As a result, 98% of their customers never even think of looking elsewhere when they need to reorder. As companies in this market start to consolidate vendors and you will need to ensure that you and your company are considered to be the most trustworthy choice. The safest choice.

As the old saying goes, there are two kinds of lies: those of commission, and those of omission. If you want to establish a reputation for honesty, never lie to your prospects or clients either by what you say, or what you choose NOT to say. And no matter how tempting it may be, never rationalize a lie by telling you that it’s “no big deal” or that it “won’t affect the outcome of the deal.”

Take my word for it – it will! Sooner or later, the customer will realize that they’ve “been sold,” and once they do, they’ll turn the tables and start playing games with you. Once that happens, your relationship will become based on distrust, and reestablishing trust can be a nearly impossible task. As Steven Gaffney and I discuss in our upcoming book Honesty Sells, the easiest way to have a more honest and open working relationship with your customers is to first learn how to separate the facts, from what you simply imagine or assume to be true.

For example, say a prospect hasn’t returned your phone call in two weeks (FACT). You imagine it’s because they’ve decided to buy a competitor’s product instead of your own (ASSUMPTION). But there could be an almost endless number of equally plausible reasons why they haven’t returned your call, including: They bought from someone else;  They’ve been too busy; The contract or funding was cancelled; They’re sick or on vacation; They haven’t made a decision yet; or They’re ignoring you.

These are just the first six possibilities that came to mind. Spend a few minutes, and you could easily come up with a dozen more. The point is, we sales people are particularly vulnerable to the mistake of making decisions and taking action based on what we assume, rather than what we really know. Sometimes we’re right. But all too often, our assumptions are wrong, and the consequences of acting on an incorrect assumption can be severe.

So how can you avoid making this mistake? By changing your mindset to allow for the possibility that you may be wrong. Try entering your next sales call by saying to yourself: “you know, I might be right that Colleen is not interested in my product, or I might be wrong. Either way, I’m going to find out.” Creating this dialogue with your clients now is the first step to earning their trust during these difficult times. Show that you truly want to be their partner, not just their sales rep, and you will be rewarded with loyalty and increased profits.

Simply allowing yourself to admit that your assumptions might be wrong will ensure that you get to the truth before you make a firm decision, or take action. Has a customer ever been less than open with you? If so, step back and look at your own behavior. If you’ve ever lied to them, then your communication style may be to blame for their dishonesty.

Dedicated to increasing your sales,


2 responses to “Selling in Tough Times

  1. Hi,
    This is very interesting blog . I just wanted to say thanks you for writing and giving your knowledge to such an informative helpful blog.
    So thanks!

  2. […] Selling in Tough Times | Sell More, Work Less and Make More Money by Colleen Francis […]

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